Nature’s Alternative Farms last week was granted a zoning variance for a hemp processing facility and greenhouses on its property north of McClave at a special hearing.

In its presentation, Karl Nyquist said his company plans the following improvements and investments this year: a processing building and equipment (25,000 square feet) $6.2 million; greenhouse and equipment (88,000 square feet) $3.4 million; irrigation equipment, (six pivots, 375 acres 40 flood-irrigated acres) $800,000; and shop building,(5,000 square feet) $200,000.

NyQuist stated the company has raised $20 million from investors. He said in the first full year of operation, the company will spending more than $1 million dollars on equipment for the 500-acre site. One of those pieces alone — an Oracle baler from Norway, costing approximately $400,000 — will be delivered in June or July of this year.

The company was formed in 2018 as a partnership with four other companies to plant a test plot of hemp, which had positive results of 70 kilos of cannabidiol or CBD isolate for an average of 5 percent CBD content in the leaves and flowers. Discovered in 1940, CBD is one of 113 identified cannabinoids in cannabis plants.

The company told county officials that hemp oil and industrial hemp products are among the fastest growing crop markets in the world. Hemp is grown in 31 countries and millions of dollars of hemp products are imported each year. The United States legalized hemp on an industrial basis in the 2018 farm bill. The Colorado Department of Agriculture requires that industrial growers obtain a license that specifies the number of acres to be farmed, genetics to be used and proof that the periodic testing of the crop never exceeds .3%THC (tetrahydrocannabino — the psychoactive part of marijuana).

In an 18-page handout provided to the audience at a recent public hearing, the company stated it would be hiring 55 employees. The company plans to hire locally but experienced processing personnel will have to be brought in.

Nyquist said the company plans to plant in three stages: around May 15, June 15 and July 15. Cuttings will start in August; again in September and October. Several times during the presentation, Nyquist mentioned growing hemp is very similar to growing alfalfa and requires less water.

Questions from the audience included one as to what effect a freeze would have on the plants. 

“The plants could handle a light freeze and NAF would monitor the weather closely, and plan to harvest so many acres a day,” Nyquist said.

One member of the audience stressed the importance of the company working with the local school agriculture programs and Bent County 4-H groups. Nyquist said he had been active with those groups in Prowers County and he plans to become active with such groups in Bent County.

County Commissioner Chuck Netherton asked if the hemp farm would turn into a marijuana farm in the future. Nyquist stated his investors are interested in hemp, not marijuana/ Besides, he said, Bent County prohibits marijuana grows. He also said hemp and marijuana do not do well together.

Nyquist also said road use by trucks should not increase as hemp processing would result in shipping of small pellets —not like truckloads of alfalfa. He also said there would be an on-site security force.